Every year, more than 10 million women and men experience physical abuse at the hands of their partner. But half of those victims’ delay leaving abusers because of their pets, who aren’t always welcome at domestic violence shelters. According to some estimates, these numbers may even be higher.
This heartbreaking dilemma led Greater Good Charities to begin converting domestic violence shelters–only 17 percent of which already welcome dogs and cats–into safe, pet-friendly spaces that no longer force women to choose between their own safety and family.
“Pets are part of your family, and no one is going to leave a family member in a dangerous situation,” said Bryna Donnelly, who founded Greater Good’s signature Rescue Rebuild program.
Founded in 2007, Rescue Rebuild provides the design, construction, labor, and expertise needed to upgrade domestic violence shelters into pet-friendly spaces, with training and coaching offered through a Greater Good Charities/RedRover collaboration called Don’t Forget The Pets.
“So when you think of it from that perspective, it makes complete sense that you see numbers like 50-60 percent [of domestic violence victims] delay leaving because they are afraid to leave a pet behind and afraid for what will happen to that pet,” said Donnelly. “These pet programs are not just important from the pet’s perspective, but they are a critical human safety need.”
In addition to helping domestic violence survivors and their pets stay together, Rescue Rebuild — which also repairs and upgrades animal shelters, homeless shelters, and veteran housing across the country — is providing a means for dogs and cats to comfort their humans during a difficult time.
“A huge part of it is also the healing part of the human animal bond,” said Donnelly. “A pet could be kenneled so that a victim can get out of an awful situation. But having the pet right there, so both the pet and the victim can heal together is just an important part of the process.”
Now the Animal Rescue Site has teamed up with Greater Good Charities to transform a Tulsa, Oklahoma shelter into a pet-friendly space in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is celebrated every year in October.
The project–which will also mark Rescue Rebuild’s 20th domestic violence shelter conversion to date–will transform the shelter into a pet-friendly space by building a cat colony room, indoor/outdoor dog kennels, a large play area, and dog/cat visitation rooms where survivors can snuggle on the couch with their pet and a blanket to watch a movie.
“While we love to encourage the pets to be able to stay in room, sometimes that’s logistically unmanageable for the domestic violence organizations,” said Donnelly. “These are kind of the spaces that we build when that’s not an option.”
Of course, upgrading this shelter won’t be cheap, says Donnelly, who estimates the total bill will come to $70,000. That’s why we need your help upgrading this shelter into a pet-friendly space where two- and four-legged domestic violence survivors can heal together.
Just $10 will help us break ground on this life-saving project, while larger donations help make an even greater difference. For a limited time, all donations will be generously matched by a Rescue Rebuild supporter who has contributed $20,000 to honor Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Can you make a donation to help us save women and pets from abuse?
Find out more by following Rescue Rebuild on Facebook.
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